How To Break Plateaus On The Bench And Overhead Press

Ty from Shangai in China asks…

Thanks for what you’ve written and starting the Stronglifts website and community. It’s seems like the only ‘legit’ place for real hard working lifters and less phonies.

My question is: the smallest plates my gym has are 2.5 Kilos; which means when I go up in 5×5, I’m going up by 5 Kilos. This causes me to easily stall on exercises like Bench, Press, and Rows. It seems like every day I’m hitting a plateau that I can’t break through.

Any suggestions? Thanks a lot. Ty

You will indeed not be able to sustain increases of 5kg/10lb per workout on the BenchPress, and Row. The reason is that these exercises use smaller muscles compared to the Squat and Deadlifts. As a result, you’ll plateau sooner and will have to deload more than the guy who has access to 2,5kg/1.25lb plates. This means that your strength and muscle gains will be a lot slower.

Note that the smaller you are, and I’m going to assume you are since you’re Asian like my girlfriend, the more important small plates become. A guy weighing +275lb will always be able to progress more easily with 5kg/10lb increments than the guys weighing only 175lb like me (sue me I’m only 5’8″) because the former has bigger muscles and better leverages.

Ironically, the weaker your lifts are, the more often you’ll plateau with 5kg/10lb increments.  As an example, for a 500lb Squatter, adding 5lb is only a 1% increment. But for a 200lb Squatter that same 5lb is 2,5%. Worse, for the guy Pressing 100lb, that 5lb is a 5% jump while 10lb is a whopping 10%. That’s why you’ll keep plateauing if you don’t have small plates.

So the obvious solution is to get yourself a set of fractional plates which you carry in your gym bag and use when needed. I have a set of fractional plates from Iron Woody: 8 plates with 2″ holes with weights ranging from 1/4lb to 1lb. This means that I can use increments as low as 0,5lb/0,22kg per workout, which is invaluable when coaching someone who’s plateauing on the Press or Bench.

Cheapskates solution for people who have too much time on their hands include gluing 2 washers together or using a pair of chains. I may be frugal, but I don’t have time for that. So I just got myself a set of fractional plates by Iron Woody, and that’s what every smart guy will do. These plates come with a full 1 year warranty by the way, so this is quality equipment even though it’s cheap.

Click here to try Iron Woody’s Fractional Plates risk-free for 30 days.

Yes risk-free because Iron Woody’s fractional plates come with a 30 day full money back guarantee. This means that if you’ve not broken your plateaus on the Press and Bench after switching from 5lb increments to 2,5lb jumps, then you contact Jeff at Iron Woody and ask for a 100% full refund.

Full disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Iron Woody so I will get a commission for each sale through my link. And I have no problems with that at all because I use their fractional plates all the time, and because I think that if you’re serious about gaining strength and muscle, you really need a set of fractional plates.

Iron Woody also offers metric plates of 0,25-1kg by the way, and they will ship their equipment all over the world (like to Belgium in my case) without charging outrageous shipping costs. For a set of metric fractional plates, click here.

Once you’ve received your set of fractional plates, switch from 5kg/10lb jumps to 2,5kg/5lb increments on all your lifts. And when you start plateauing on the Press/Bench/Row, switch to 1kg/2lb jumps for these lifts. This will allow you to progress longer on StrongLifts 5×5 without having to deload all the time.

P.S. Don’t get caught up with price per pound. Fractional plates will always be more expensive per pound than regular gym plates because it costs more to manufacture stuff at a tighter weight tolerance. This is what you’re paying for.

Click here to try Iron Woody’s Fractional Plates risk-free for 30 days.

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